When you’re growing your recruitment brand, referral programs are a great idea. Good people know good people – an untapped network of ideal candidates. Add a big incentive and you’re golden, right?
But they are rarely a romping success. At least not in the way they are in other industries. Dropbox is the most famous example; referrals count for over a third of their paid customers. Referral programs signal how well your brand is developing. I learned this the hard way.
I built one for a new business. It was digital, optimized, anonymous and looked great. It failed. We gave away less than 5% of a sizeable incentive budget in 2 months. I couldn’t give away free cash. I felt I was terrible at my job.
There are lots of things we can learn from the likes of Dropbox. But I discovered some easy wins here that made for better programs in the future. It comes down how we think candidates consume your brand.
You’ve Left Candidates Feeling Cold
Creating a shiny new website is exciting. There’s a session where someone asks you what websites you like. You indulge in fonts, color theory and feature set. It comes out looking beautiful, with your referral program taking center stage. Your site is well managed and your traffic is increasing. But your referrals aren’t. Why? You look and sound great!
In reality, candidates feel it’s all a bit transactional when they visit you. A bit hollow. They feel this way because you built a website instead of a brand.
The building blocks of a recruitment brand needn’t be laborious. It’s really just storytelling around your business. A great place to start with this is storyboarding your candidate journey. Put yourself in your candidate’s shoes – go through your process to see how it comes across. Change the touchpoints you're not a fan of. Repeat.
When done, design an identity around it – not the other way around. This narrative is your brand and it’s a natural way to increase referrals. You might not even need incentives after this. I’ll post more about this in the future. If you can’t wait that until then, PH Creative made a cracking eBook about this very subject.
In recruitment or just plain old economics, we think that everyone is out to make the most optimal decision possible. And when logic like this doesn’t stack up, we blame the candidate.
“Why don’t they take this [better job / pay rise / chunk of referral money]. Must be mad”.
But here’s the point. People aren't trying to make the best decisions – they are avoiding making terrible ones. This is why your big incentive isn’t pulling in loads of leads. At least not on its own. It affects how people interact with your referral campaign and brand (There are a few other bias’s like this we should think about – You’ll find a list of them here).
Once we understand that we're all trying to avoid terribleness rather than achieve perfection, the reasons why no one adopts your program make sense. In fact, they’re pretty rational.
This is where building your recruitment brand becomes powerful.
Disrupting Status Quo
How your network perceives you is a valuable thing. You’re probably pretty happy with your peer group and how you interact within it. You’ve always done it this way; it’s always been ok.
“Would you like £1,000 to refer your colleague?” .No. That sounds dangerous.
This is perfectly rational. And it’s a really reliable way of making sure nothing horrible happens. A stand-alone incentive that disrupts the status quo needs to be very, very sizeable.
It’s cheaper to remove the perceived danger and build trust instead.